Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Death from Out There

November 21, 2017

In keeping with my growing tradition of giving you something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, herewith another discussion of death by asteroid, with the good part being, we might never see it coming.

Rocks that pass in the night

On late October, not quite a month ago, the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands picked up an ultra-high-speed object departing the solar system.

Click to embiggen

A2017 U1 is 400m in diameter, long and thin, moving at 25km/second. It’s perhaps 20 times bigger and five kps faster than the Chelyabinsk meteor. If it hit the Earth (choose your own adventure), it would likely dig a crater 7km in diameter and half a km deep, and blow down everything within a 100km radius. If it hit offshore, it would create a 25-50m tsunami. A country/region-destroying impact, but not continental or planetary disaster. That would require that the rock be over ten times larger, and hit at just the right place. Do you feel lucky?

The point is, we never saw it coming. We picked it up well after it had made its turn around the Sun (and ten days after its closest approach to Earth), and it took a couple of days from the time the image was collected until we understood what we had. And if it were headed right at us, there wouldn’t be much drift across successive images to analyze. It would be a nearly stationary object, very like a star, except that it wouldn’t move with the stars.

It could be that the last words our technological civilization ever hears will be an astronomy grad student saying “Oh, shi….”

By their nature, interstellar asteroids are impossible to predict. But even regular asteroids can stay hidden. A recent Hubble Space Telescope galaxy survey just happened to pick up five new ones. They are faint, Main Belt asteroids that pose no threat, and yet they make one think about what might still be out there, waiting, in the dark.

They do everything in threes.



Curried Turkey Oatmeal

November 24, 2016

So, it’s late on Turkey Day, and you’re wondering what to do with all the leftovers. We’ve been in that situation many times. This year, in addition to turkey bones and bits, we had some leftover pork and beef bones. No problem. Pile them all in the pressure cooker, along with an onion, celery, carrot, peppercorns, and (why not?) a bay leaf, then fill it right up to the plimsol line with water. Cook on high pressure for 45min and let it sit for about the same amount of time to depressurize before you open it.* Our cooker will hold two quarts, plus a cup, if you haven’t gone overboard on the solids. Pour the two quarts into two quart containers, or a two quart container, and pour the remaining cup into a mason jar or the equivalent, along with half a cup of oatmeal.

Setup: 1/2 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of hot turkey broth, Golden Curry roux to taste, salt. Allow it to sit, covered, on the counter overnight.

Results: Very good. The overnight soak method makes for a creamier oatmeal. If you like, you could add chunks of dried fruit, but those are more common around Christmas. Shred cheese topping is also nice.

Rating: *****

*Some recipes call for running cold water over the pot to cool it down. Ours is electric, and the cord wouldn’t let us reach the sink.

Memories of My Youth: Thanksgivings Past

November 24, 2016
President Bush (on right) with Thanksgiving turkey

President Bush (on right) with turkey

On being over-patrioted

November 11, 2013

1. Fourth of July
2. Memorial Day
3. Patriots Day
4. Veterans Day
5. Thanksgiving
6. Presidents Day

All days on which we celebrate the Americans we’ve managed to kill in recent wars (2, 4), or praise God for his foresight in signing-on with such an obviously successful nation (1, 5), or disseminate propaganda on how it’s our patriotic duty to obey the government (3), or buy linens (6). To those of us who grew up in post-WWII America, served in her mid-century wars, and held what really was a bulwark of freedom against the Soviet Union, today’s government-sponsored, MSM-supported patriotism is a distorted, fun-house-mirror projection of what we served for.

Back in the 60’s, as I recall, there was a Senate hearing on some non-DoD budget topic, basic science research, support for the arts — memory fails, as does the Internet. At one point, a Senator asked a witness about what contribution his program would make to the defense of the nation. The response was “It’s part of what makes it worth defending”. One could make the same response when asked what enforcing all these Constitutional restrictions on DHS and NSA will contribute to the defense of America. We have come to a sorry state of affairs, when Germany feels it has to chastise us for failing Democracy, for abandoning good government in favor of power-grabbing paranoia and fear.

As Der Spiegel (The Mirror) editorial says, we’re losing the bedrock reasons for supporting patriotism in America. At one point, patriotism meant taking up arms to free our country from colonial exploiters. At one time it meant leaving our ploughs in the field and going off to defend America and the world against evil that was not only real, but effective. Now, it means joining the ranks of our huddled masses, yearning to be safe.

I like to use patriotic dates like this as an occasion for commenting on the state of the nation and the moral standing of our politicians, but I’m not going to comment on every day listed for every year that rolls around — there’s too many of them, the evil remains banal, and one can only remain mad for so long.

Igor Bars

November 22, 2011

We take a break from our Oataku Adventures to offer a link to the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving. I am posting this two days early, so you have time to buy the ingredients. Igor Bars are the embodiment of an All American approach to Thanksgiving desserts — a perfect combination of home-made and commercial, that is just the thing for topping off that 35lb turkey dinner and preparing yourself for your post-Thanksgiving diet. My addition to the Igor Bars canon would be to add whipped cream topping, to make it more festive. Remember, if it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth overdoing.

My Grandmother’s Turkey Stuffing 2 – Leftovers

December 3, 2010

When properly made, the stuffing has a stiffness and consistency something like cold mashed potatoes (even when hot). It’s not as mushy as hot mashed potatoes, and it’s not as crumbly as bread stuffing. This makes it a perfect basis for leftover stuffing sandwiches. Just slice a slab off the cold stuffing and eat in a sandwich with lettuce and mayonnaise. For a special treat, cut off a thin slice of jellied cranberry sauce – the standard canned variety, and add that. No turkey meat needed.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2010

From Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4 Episode 8

Dean Gerhardt: And that’s why it’s appropriate that the ground-breaking for the UC Sunnydale cultural partnership center is taking place so soon before Thanksgiving. Because that’s what the melting pot is about– Contributions from all cultures, making our culture stronger…

WILLOW: What a load of horse hooey.

BUFFY: We have a counterpoint?

WILLOW: Yeah. Thanksgiving isn’t about blending of 2 cultures. It’s about one culture wiping out another. And then they make animated specials about the part where, with the maize and the big, big belt buckles. They don’t show you the next scene, where all the bison die and Squanto takes a musket ball in the stomach.

BUFFY: Ok. Now, for some of that, you were channeling your mother?

WILLOW: Well, yeah, sort of. That’s why she doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Columbus Day– You know, the destruction of the indigenous peoples. I know it sounds a little overwrought, but really, she’s…She’s right.

BUFFY: Yeah. I guess I never really thought about it that way. With mom at aunt Darlene’s this year, I’m not getting a Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s just as well.

ANYA: Well, I think that’s a shame. I love a ritual sacrifice.

BUFFY: It’s not really a one of those.

ANYA: To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice, with pie.

My Grandmother’s Turkey Stuffing

November 20, 2010

This is a potato stuffing recipe that’s close to 100 years old. It’s from my Irish grandmother, but it’s not Irish, because there’s not that many turkeys in Ireland (I think the snakes got them). Probably it’s from the Pennsylvania Dutch around Philadelphia, where she lived at the start of the last century. I haven’t found this recipe online, but the one or two that were similar were from that area. We always had it when we went to the grandparents house for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. She included bird-stuffing directions, but I agree with Alton Brown, that stuffing is teh evil, so we put this in a dish and cook in the oven.*

The Recipe


    Giblets from a 12-15lb turkey (All measurements are ‘about’ – after the first time, you will know how to adjust)

    6-8 potatoes, peeled and quartered

    8-10 slices of stale white bread (she’d always lay them out in rows on the big kitchen table the night before).

    1 large or 2 small onions

    1 Tbsp Poultry Seasoning

    Salt and pepper IAW your cardiologists instructions.


    Wash and cook heart, gizzard, liver, and neck in water to cover. When cooked, remove meat from water, set aside. Save the water for the next step.

    Cook potatoes in same water as the meat. There should be very little water left after the cooking. Mash in the water, and set aside.

    In a hand grinder, grind the meat, bread, and onions into a bowl. Season. Mix in the potatoes.

    Put in a greased dish, cover, and cook at about 325F for about 30minutes. The only thing that needs cooking here is the onions, so it’s more like giving the flavors time to get comfortable with each other.


    A good combo-replacement for standard mashed potatoes and stuffing. Goes extremely well with gravey made from the stuff that leaks off the bird into the pan.

    It also makes some very good leftovers, suitable for sandwiches.


You could try different herb and ingredient combinations – sage, oregano, celery. We have tried adding celery to this mix, and it isn’t bad, but it totally changes the flavor. You could also substitute something more wholesome than white bread, but that would change the character, and what we’re after here is a grandmother’s-stuffing-experience, not a health trip. Thanksgiving isn’t about health, it’s about eating to the point that surface tension becomes an issue.

When I was living in the dorm, I tried to make a field expedient version in my microwave, with instant mashed potatoes, breadcrumbs, and turkey broth. It never quite worked out.

*You could also, IAW more recent AB instructions, take the stuffing from the oven while hot and pack it into the turkey. That way it doesn’t have to be heated by the bird. Or just pour some pan juice over it when the turkey is done.